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Appeals court blocks overturning of California ‘assault weapons’ ban

AR-15. (Michael Guio/Flickr)
June 22, 2021

On Monday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a district judge’s June 4 ruling that overturned California’s “assault weapon” ban.

A 3-judge panel on the federal court of appeals issued the stay of order, allowing the state’s “assault weapon” ban to remain in effect while additional proceedings take place.

“#BREAKING: The 9th Circuit granted our motion to stay the district court’s ruling in Miller v. Bonta,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta wrote on Twitter. “This leaves our assault weapons laws in effect while appellate proceedings continue.”

“We won’t stop defending these life-saving laws,” he added.

On June 4, US District Judge Roger Benitez issued the order overturning the “assault weapon” ban, likening the AR-15 to a Swiss Army Knife.

“Like the Swiss Army Knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment,” Benitez said in the ruling. “Good for both home and battle, the AR-15 is the kind of versatile gun that lies at the intersection of the kinds of firearms protected under District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008) and United States v Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). Yet, the State of California makes it a crime to have an AR15 type rifle. Therefore, this Court declares the California statutes to be unconstitutional.”

“Standard size magazines are ubiquitous. With the physiological stress of waking to the noise of home invaders, one may need many rounds to overcome the difficulty of aiming in the dark at multiple attackers making furtive movements,” the judge continued. “The adjustable stock can be quickly set for one’s arm length. The pistol grip gives a homeowner a secure hold with one hand while the other hand holds a telephone or spare magazine.”

Benitez called the guns “fairly ordinary, popular, modern rifles.”

Officials in California criticized the ruling, including Gov. Gavin Newson, who called the AR-15 a “weapon of war.”

“Weapons of war don’t belong on our streets,” the governor tweeted. “CA’s assault weapon ban has saved countless lives — we will do everything in our power to keep it in place.”

Benitez gave the state 30 days to challenge his ruling, and within a week Bonta filed an appeal, calling the judge’s decision “disturbing and troubling” during a joint press briefing on June 10.

“Our strong common-sense gun laws help curb not only mass shootings but gun violence as a whole,” he said. “Our laws also respect the rights of those law-abiding, responsible individuals.”

California’s Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989 had banned numerous firearms models by name and any semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine in addition to one or more other features including a “pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon,” a thumbhole stock or collapsable stock. The law also prohibited magazines with an ammunition capacity beyond 10 rounds.